Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
Pages : 435
Genre : Chick lit
My Rating :
Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they?
When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie–a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance–mysteriously appears, she has one last request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, and Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing distractions. Her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, her start-up company is floundering, and she’s just been dumped by the “perfect” man. Sadie, however, could care less.
Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from each other along the way.
It’s no secret to those around me that I am a long time fan of Sophie Kinsella (mostly because Shopaholic was the first full book I read in English!) I have read all of her books written under this pen name, and there are very few that I didn’t like. Remember Me, for instance, is a book I would rather forget; Twenties Girl, on the opposite site of the book spectrum, is now one of my favorites Kinsella (if not THE favorite).
The great thing about Sadie’s ghost, is that it becomes some sort of “rational” explanation for the heroine’s erratic behavior. Lara isn’t as clumsy or irresponsible as, let’s say, Shopaholic’s Becky Bloomwood. She felt a little more grounded, but still a typical Kinsella character in spirit. While at first she seems to lack some organisation skills (unpaid bills and such), you can see that she’s just a great girl who wants to do things right. The true star of this book though, is her aunt Sadie’s ghost, who follows her around to the point that Lara’s friends and family start to think that something isn’t exactly right with her!
Sadie was such an entertainging character; fun, touching, curious, capricious, she was the kind of character that annoys you, then makes you laugh, until you just don’t want to let her go. And it’s exactly what happened : when I closed the book, I didn’t want it to be over. You would think that 435 of ghosty action was enough, but I would have read another chunk like this right that moment.
Lara recognizes herself in her aunt’s life, and she learns to know the person Sadie was when she was alive, and young and full of hopes and dreams. At the same time, Sadie’s reactions on the present time are extremely funny. She also has that fun trick to force people to obey her will, but I’m not going to say more about that. 😉
I also thought that this novel had a little more depth than Kinsella’s previous works. Maybe it was because my grand-mother was having her 100th birthday on the same week I was reading it, but 105 years old Sadie’s lonely life in a home really made me sad (fortunately, my grand-mother is lucky to have visit almost every day of the week!) It makes you think on life and family, and how important those bonds are. I thought that Kinsella did a great job of writing on the subject without making it heavy and sad, but without ignoring it either.
I would think that fans of Kinsella will like this one, if not love. For those of you who have been tempted to try one of Kinsella’s work, Twenties Girl could be a good one. This is one ghost story that won’t scare you and will surely put a smile on your face! 🙂
Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Pages : 289
Genre : Austen Fiction, Chick Lit
My Rating :
While Confessions took twenty-first-century free spirit Courtney Stone into the social confines of Jane Austen’s era, Rude Awakenings tells the parallel story of Jane Mansfield, a gentleman’s daughter from Regency England who inexplicably awakens in Courtney’s overly wired and morally confused L.A. life.
For Jane, the modern world is not wholly disagreeable. Her apartment may be smaller than a dressing closet, but it is fitted up with lights that burn without candles, machines that wash bodies and clothes, and a glossy rectangle in which tiny people perform scenes from her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. Granted, if she wants to travel she may have to drive a formidable metal carriage, but she may do so without a chaperone. And oh, what places she goes!
Privacy, independence, even the power to earn her own money. But how is she to fathom her employer’s incomprehensible dictates about “syncing a BlackBerry” and “rolling a call”? How can she navigate a world in which entire publications are devoted to brides but flirting and kissing and even the sexual act itself raise no matrimonial expectations? Even more bewildering are the memories that are not her own. And the friend named Wes, who is as attractive and confusing to Jane as the man who broke her heart back home. It’s enough to make her wonder if she would be better off in her own time, where at least the rules are clear-that is, if returning is even an option.
Rude Awakenings was like a candy bag : you wish it would last longer, and yet you can’t stop yourself from going through it as quickly as possible. It was that good! It was fun! While Confessions had been completely unsatisfying in the end, Rude Awakenings answered most of my questions – and even some more.
Having re-read Confessions a little over a week ago, the story was still fresh in my memory. One thing I really enjoyed was the difference between the two books’ narration styles. They were similar, but through the language you really had a feel that the two women didn’t come from the same place and time. The author made a fantastic job on the two characters, who have similarities in their personnalities without feeling “the same”.
I also preferred Jane as a narrator; while Courtney seemed a little whiny at times (many times I wanted to give her a good “shoulder shake”), Jane was an adorable and curious narrator. Of course, she was at first scared and cautious, but she quickly learns to appreciate her new life. Her puzzlement, and amazement for all things modern was adorable but believable. Her look on modern life was hilarious, but also very true! She made observations on today’s women lives that were right on point, without being contradictions to her own character.
Most of all, this book was fun. I laughed many times, and out loud I should add. You have to love a book that brightens your day like that!
I also appreciated the part the love story plays in the book. Oh, it’s there, and you hear some word about Wes or Frank or even Edgeworth mostly every page. But fortunately, Jane has other concerns : re-organizing Courtney’s life means putting back in place many things, from her work situation to her precarious financial status, without forgetting the annoying neighbor. Her happiness doesn’t depend exlusively on her love relationship, and that’s a good thing to read!
Although this book has a parallel story line to the one in Confessions, I would recommend reading them in the order they came in. There are many explanations, allusions and references to Confessions in Rude Awakenings, and you will certainly enjoy reading the second book the last. Plus, isn’t it better to keep the best for the end? 🙂
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Pages : 288
Genre : Austen Fiction, Chick Lit
My Rating :
After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?
But not even her love of Jane Austen has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience. Enter the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who fills Courtney’s borrowed brain with confusing memories that are clearly not her own.
Try as she might to control her mind and find a way home, Courtney cannot deny that she is becoming this other woman—and being this other woman is not without its advantages: Especially in a looking-glass Austen world. Especially with a suitor who may not turn out to be a familiar species of philanderer after all.
I first read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict last year, when it finally came out in paperback. I remember reading it almost completely in one sitting, enjoying its light humor and predictable-but-adorable plot. As a fan of both Jane Austen and time travel, this book was exactly what I was looking for after a stressful semester. Until I hit the ending.
Honestly, I couldn’t remember an ending that had brought more unsatisfaction. I thought it didn’t answer any question, and I felt like I was missing a big part of the story! Completely frustrated, I decided I hated the book, shoved it at the back of my bookcase and forgot about it.
Little did I know that the author was then working on a second novel that would probably answer my questions and doubts! So, of course, I had to re-read the first book before I read the second. All I could remember of it was that frustrating ending. Based on that sole memory, I wouldn’t have given this book more than 2 stars.
As it turns out, this book was in fact a very fun and quick read. Suspend your disbelief and this is quite an interesting travel. Even though Courtney is unbelievably unaware of the social context for a Jane Austen addict, she offered a fresh look on the period and was entertaining to follow around. One of my favorite aspects of the story was Courtney’s quest to discovering what happened in Jane Mansfield’s life before she took over her body.
I just started reading the second book, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen addict, and I’m really glad I didn’t gave up on this one. I still find the first book’s ending a little irritating, but I can forgive it now that I have the next book (which, from what I heard, holds a better explanation and ending!)
What about you : have you ever encountered such an ending that it changed your complete perception of the book – whether it was positively or negatively? Can an unsatisfying book be forgiven by a wonderful ending – or, on the opposite, a bad ending excused by an otherwise great story?
Jane Austen Ruined my Life by Beth Pattillo
Pages : 270
Genre : Chick lit, Austen fiction
My Rating :
For English professor Emma Grant life was prodigiously good, as her favourite author Jane Austen might say, until the day Emma finds her husband in bed with another woman. Suddenly, all her romantic notions a la Austen are exposed for the foolish dreams they are. Denied tenure in the wake of the scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce, Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen.
Locating the elusive letters, however, isn’t as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma’s first love makes everything more complicated.
Jane Austen Ruined my Life is pretty much what it looks like: a light, romantic comedy set in England that flows lightly from start to finish.
This novel, written from Emma’s point of view, tells two stories : one is the unavoidable (but predictable) romance with her long-lost friend Adam, and the other is her quest for Jane Austen’s missing letters. The latter certainly was, for me, the most interesting part of the book.
I love everything Austen and I don’t mind the liberties Pattillo took with the historical setting. In fact, I thought it felt really clear to me, through the book, what was fiction and what wasn’t. Mrs. Parrot was a great character: I loved her eccentricities as much as I loved the idea of a Jane Austen secret society. The missions she gave Emma paced the book with mystery, and I was always curious to read what was coming next.
Sadly I wasn’t as connected with Adam and Emma’s obvious romance; I didn’t feel the connection between them. Even though the story was clearly suggesting stronger feelings, I didn’t feel anything more than friendship. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the book, though!
One other thing I loved : the ending. Not exactly conventional, and far more realistic than most books of the genre.
In the end, it was a really fun read. It’s partly a fiction inspired by Austen’s writing, and partly a fiction on Austen’s life. Not unlike Becoming Jane, this book suggests an incredible, life-changing love story that influenced Austen’s writing. If this interests you, I strongly suggest that you also read that article from The telegraph to keep on with the facts! To quote said article, “Theories about the novelist’s relationships are always exciting, because it gives more depth to her life.”
Today is a first, as I’ll be doing two reviews in one single post. It is both a way to save some time in reviewing the books that are waiting, and to compare two books from a same author. Here we go!
Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
Pages : 371
Genre : Chicklit, Mystery
My Rating :
I had read some of Jennifer Weiner’s work in the past, but only in french translation. So when the end of my winter semester happened, all I wanted was some light, refreshing reading. It seemed like the right moment to renew with Weiner, one of my friend’s favorite chicklit authors, so I went to the library and picked those two books, Goodnight Nobody being the first.
For Kate, a semi-accidental mother of three, suburbia’s been full of unpleasant surprises. Her once-loving husband is hardly ever home. The supermommies on the playground routinely snub her. Her days are spent carpooling, and at night, most of her orgasms are of the do-it-yourself variety. When a fellow mother is murdered, Kate finds that the unsolved mystery is one of the most interesting things to happen in Upchurch. She launches an unofficial investigation with the help of her hilarious best friend, carpet heiress Janie Segal, and Evan McKenna, a former flame she thought she’d left behind in New York City.
The first thing I liked about this book was the mix of the genres; despite being of the chikclit category, Goodnight Nobody’s primary subject isn’t about love relationships! And while I do enjoy, from time to time, a chicklit romance with a good storyline, it was a nice change of pace to see the character getting involved in a kind of mystery. Of course, the murder is predictable enough, but the author makes it fun to follow the characters through their research. I thought the characters were good enough. Sometimes two-dimensional, maybe, but the book is still a fun and quick read.
Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
Pages : 414
Genre : Chicklit, Fiction
My Rating :
Compared to Goodnight Nobody, Little Earthquakes deals more seriously with its subject, motherhood. I’m at that age when many of my friends are beginning to think about having (more) children or are currently trying to; and although we’re not financially ready now, we think about it sometimes, too. Maybe that’s why I liked this book more than Goodnight Nobody, but I think it could still appeal to women who aren’t in the “breeding phase” of their life.
Little Earthquakes is the story of 4 women. Three of them are pregnant, and one of them just lost her baby. The narration switches between the women, something I often found annoying in other books but that I loved in this one. Becky is a cook trying to balance work, family, and a horrible mother-in-law (I had one like that, once… yikes!) Kelly wants her life to be perfect, but all that changes when her husband comes home with bad news. Ayinde, wife of a basketball superstar must deals not only with her new baby, but with the consequences of her public life. Finally, there is Lia, an actress who ran away from her Hollywood life after the sudden death of her child.
I thought Weiner did a good job of making every character different, and still made believable that these women could become close friends. I had an easier time to understand and feel them than I did with the ones in Goodnight Nobody. I think this is due to the story’s point-of-view; here, we follow these four women’s life, while in Goodnight Nobody, we followed the story of a dead woman through the story of a living one.
The author also chose a realistic approach to the coming of a newborn in a house, which isn’t only rainbows and unicorns. The women go through hard times as much as good ones, but the story never feels heavy or painful; it’s light, funny, and yes, sometimes a little sad but always with a touch of hope.
Mother day is coming this weekend, and this book seems perfect for the occasion! If you planned on offering a book for the occasion – to a mother, a mother-to-be or even a daughter – I think this one is a great choice for the occasion! 🙂
Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin
Pages : 322
Genre : chick lit
My Rating : 4/5
Rachel and Darcy have been friends since their childhood. Of the two, Darcy has always been the star of the story while Rachel watched on the sidelines, always doing the “right” thing. All this changes when, on the night of her thirtieth birthday, Darcy’s fiancé, Dexter, ends up in Rachel’s bed. Rachel, first terrified of their mistake being discovered by Darcy, soon realizes that night might not have been a mistake, after all; her feelings for Dexter are strong, and they then engage in an affair.
While the basics of the story are a little predictable, it is the characters of Something Borrowed that sets this book apart from the others of the genre. Griffin is excellent at making them realistic, loveable but not perfect, putting everything in perspective. You feel sorry for Darcy as much as you are annoyed by her attitude, and you feel sad for Rachel despite knowing what she is doing is wrong. I thought there was a great honesty in Rachel’s conflicted feelings and the way she described them, mostly avoiding self-pity;
Fear must supersede all other emotions – stifling shame or regret – because crazily enough, I do not seem to feel guilty about betraying my best friend. The only real guilt I can muster is guilt over not feeling guilty. But I will repent later, just as soon as I know that I am safe.
Quickly enough, I was rooting for her and Dexter to be together – maybe feeling a little guilty of it at first, feeling as if I was there patting Rachel on the shoulder, encouraging their hidden relationship. As their affair – and their love – evolves, this is also for Rachel the opportunity to re-evaluate her friendship with Darcy. She goes through the memories that link them together, from their childhood to the present, all the while living a double life: sleeping with Dexter on night, dining with Darcy the day after.
As the reader soon discovers, Darcy’s frienship is as much a gift as it is a burden for Rachel. Darcy is self-centered, capricious and wants all eyes on her. She flirts with other men (but would never accept her man flirting with other girls), decides of everything and has absolutely no empathy for her friends. Not exactly the kind of friend you’d want to have. The more you discover of her temper, the less guilty you feel for rooting for her husband-to-be and his mistress. I won’t say I didn’t feel sorry for her at times though, and I am quite curious to read Something Blue, wich tells the story from her point of view. Can Griffin make her more loveable? Will her friendship with Rachel be repaired? What will she learn from this? Hopefully, the sequel will answer those questions.
Something Borrowed was definitely a fun read; it is fast-paced and real in the details, with great dialogues. If you’re looking for a great chick lit with interesting characters, this might be just what you need!